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Tina Peters files federal lawsuit to block criminal investigations, prosecutions against her

Peters, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Colorado secretary of state last year, was indicted on 10 counts by a Mesa County grand jury. Her trial begins Feb. 7.
Tina Peters of Mesa County speaks during a Republican State central meeting on March 11, 2023, in Loveland where elections for a chairman, vice chairman and Secretary of the Colorado Republican State Central Committee were conducted. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to halt local, state and federal criminal investigations and prosecutions against her in a security breach of her county’s election system in 2021.

The 43-page lawsuit was filed against U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Mesa County District Attorney Daniel Rubenstein. It claims their continued investigations into Peters violate her constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association and right to petition the government to redress her grievances.

The lawsuit comes as Peters is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 7 in Mesa County. A grand jury indicted her in March 2022 on 10 counts stemming from her actions during an election software update in May 2021. Peters is facing felony and misdemeanor charges, including attempting to influence a public official and criminal impersonation.

Belinda Knisley, Peters’ deputy clerk at the time, was also indicted in the case. Knisley pleaded guilty in 2022 to three misdemeanors and agreed to testify against Peters.

Peters’ new lawsuit claims she was performing her duty to preserve records as an elections official when she had a consultant make a “forensic image” of the elections software before the update completed by Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems. Two months later, passwords used during the update were posted online by a conservative website.

The lawsuit claims the investigations and prosecutions by state and federal authorities constitute retaliation and harassment of Peters.

Rubenstein, a Republican, said Wednesday he hadn’t been served with the lawsuit.

“I … am aware that one has been filed,” he told The Sun. “Having been elected as the district attorney for the 21st Judicial District, I have a constitutional, statutory, and ethical obligation to represent this community in criminal matters.”

Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state said in a statement: “Tina Peters compromised her own voting equipment in an attempt to prove the Big Lie and risked her constituents’ constitutional right to vote. Her attempts to evade accountability with this frivolous lawsuit will not work.”

Peters, who claims without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen, ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state last year, losing the Republican primary by nearly 90,000 votes. She also ran unsuccessfully earlier this year to be chair of the Colorado GOP.

Peters was separately sentenced to home detention and community service earlier this year for trying to prevent authorities from seizing an iPad she used to make a prohibited recording of one of Knisley’s court hearings. The sentence was stayed pending an appeal. Peters was also held in contempt of court for making the recording and fined $1,500.

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